The LeadershipZone for better leadership

Get into the leadershipzone – practical tools and ideas you can use to improve your effectiveness as a leader or manager


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Steve Jobs: Leader

I’m sure the world will be flooded with tributes to Steve Jobs and I wanted to add one more celebration of a great life and a great leader.  I’m not an IT expert and my focus here is the man’s leadership.

It’s a personal belief I have that his success as a global leader, in part was due to the way he guarded his own privacy and family life. We’re better able to go out and lead when we have a place we can go back to and be totally ourselves with people we love.

A few words first about empathy and dealing with loss.

What I noticed yesterday, after I heard the news, was that my own thoughts and emotions turned to those I love the most and without whom I would be bereft.  When sadness touches us, the oxygen in our systems rush to the heart.

  • For those of you who felt a  moment of emotion at the news; this is empathy – this is normal
  • Feeling challenged about talking about death is normal – and needs to be done
  • For those of you who also have experience a close loss – this length of time is normal too

For those who will be more profoundly mourning Steve Jobs’ loss this will continue for anything up to two years.

Bereavement is not a linear experience; we don’t get ‘better and better’ every day.  Sometimes the slightest event can trigger a reminiscence – yet it’s important not to ignore that loss:  people need to talk about their loved ones and yes, bring their emotions to work.  As leaders, we can create and support an environment where this is possible – and supports a positive and successful work environment.

Yes, addressing something so sensitive is challenging the first time we do it.  But it needs doing.  Some of my clients work in dangerous industries and it’s a salutory reminder of the responsibilities of leadership when you have to tell a wife or family member that their loved one won’t be coming home.

Back to Steve Jobs and the Apple corporation

My first awareness of Steve Jobs and the Apple corporation was back in the mid ’80s – when I worked in the City of London.  I looked after the building and facilities and we were shifting away from the single ‘mega-computer’.  It’s memory was tiny compared to today’s machines, but it required its own room, an air conditioning unit and a false floor to spread the weight loading.

One of our senior Brokers had persuaded his Director to invest in a Macintosh computer and it was tiny – and well designed.  When the corporate diktat came from on high that we were going over to a rival PC-based system, this person clung onto his Apple for dear life.  It wasn’t just the design of the kit; my colleague argued that the Macintosh was more efficient at doing the complex work that he needed.  It was easier to use, less prone to crashing and certainly better at keeping out spam.  Our company was one of the first in the world to have a global in-house email system – so we experienced the downside of emails long before it became a household application.

People often link the ‘apple’ name and logo to the Beatles, and the link to Alan Turning – father of modern computers – is often forgotten.  Turing is said to have died by eating a poisoned apple – hence the bite out of the side of the Apple logo.  So if there is a part of heaven reserved for computer experts, two visionaries will be playing their harps today instead of one.  Of course, they’re probably programming a computer to do it for them.

RIP Steve Jobs


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Intuition and Decision-making

My earliest interest in leadership and management was around the topic of decision-making and success.  Why do some people need lots of information – and even then don’t take decisions?  Why do some leaders move forward on the basis of very little information?

I first began to understand intuition in action when working on a consulting project for a specialist hospital in south-west England.  Head Injury patients were recovering from surgery and the nurses reported their observations of very subtle signs and signals from the patients.  They believed they saw a correlation between these early signs and later recovery (or lack of it).

Malcolm Gladwell explored this further in his book ‘Blink’, where he described the impact of seeing repeating patterns – either in behaviour or inanimate objects, such as the sculptures at the Getty Museum.  An expert in the field will know, in the blink of an eye, whether the work is genuine or a fake.  Just as the nurse can tell by the blink of an eye, whether the patient will walk, talk and return to work.

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LeadershipZone fundamentals: creating the emotional tone

A client was describing to me the challenging week she was having; the feelings of overwhelm and the need to focus on the important priorities.  Familiar territory for many leaders in today’s demanding environment; with fewer resources to hand and more on our plates.

What was of particular interest to me was the emotional zone in which she found herself and how that was the key underlying issue that needed addressing.  The challenge was being sucked in by people around her who were actively seeding negative emotions.

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Leadership & Economic Stimulus

The beauty of writing a blog is that the author can turn their attention to a range of relevant topics.  My focus this week is ‘leadership and economic stimulus’.  Why?  Because as I follow a number of discussions on economic situations around the world I’m reminded how closely it’s linked to our personal self-confidence.

People with money are holding onto it; they’re not spending it, rather they are spending time and effort looking for safe havens.  Whether that’s Switzerland (who have responded decisively to dissuade people from this approach), or major banks (some of which are charging ‘negative interest’ to reflect the cost of this).  A ‘safe haven’ is just a way of saying “I don’t feel confident enough to invest at the moment”.

searching for that elusive 'safe haven'

So Economic Stimulus needs Confidence

There’s so much we can do, as leaders, when we do feel confident.  We all know what it feels like to be ‘in the zone’: dynamic, energetic and full of that ‘can do’ feeling.  We see more possibilities and our brains are more creative.  Brain scientists would say that this is because more of the oxygen in our system is going to the brain – rather than being diverted to our legs (flight), our arms and hands (fight), or to our hearts (when we grieve and mourn).

There are steps we can take to generate economic confidence, and rather than offering out-of-context solustions, I invite you to consider these two questions:

  • What stimulus does your business or organisation need from other businesses/organisations?
  • What will you/your organisation do to stimulate the economy in turn?  Whether at a local, national or international level.

The LeadershipZone – a place of dynamic possibility

So in the LeadershipZone we need to be in a place of dynamic possibility and lead our people and teams towards success and achievement.  Does this feel like a tall order?  When there’s so much to be done before the end of the day, week or month – it  can appear to be so.  My challenge to anyone reading this is to step back and start looking the bigger picture:

  • What’s your strategic vision for what you’re aiming towards?

The steps on the way maybe detailed and complex, but if we – and our people –  aren’t feeling motivated and clear about where we’re going, then nothing’s going to happen.

The converse is also true, sometimes we do, and achieve, a lot – but no-one is stopping to look at the steps we’re taking towards success.  Here’s five things you can do to support yourself and others see the results of the effort they’re putting in:

  1. Notice and express the qualities of the people around you.  For example, if you notice a way of doing something that brings results, mention it publicly – and mention the quality you see in the person that resulted in that achievement too.
  2. Look at your own experience, skills and strengths, and really get to know these factors in your team members.  These are what will get you through the challenges ahead.
  3. Set up mentoring/buddy schemes – so that you and your colleagues have someone who’s open to hearing about the challenges and providing relevant advice.  I’m currently supporting a mentoring scheme for professional women working in logistics in the UK (with links across the world).  It’s amazing how generous people are in offering support to others as they climb the career ladder.  People loved being asked to be mentors – as long as their time and professionalism is respected
  4. Here’s a great website where you and  your people can be reminded to list and reflect on their daily achievements: http://www.idonethis.com
  5. Talking these achievements over with a colleague, boss or buddy can really inspire and motivate you and your people

Remember the rules of the LeadershipZone: get yourself inspired and motivated first, so that you can better inspire, motivate and above all lead your team to success.